While the ATP's leading men descended on Stuttgart for a week of clay court tennis in the week immediately following Wimbledon, behind the scenes preparations were already under way for the tournament's conversion from a clay court venue to a grass court venue ahead of the 2015 calendar.
The MercedesCup, an ATP World Tour 250 tournament, received approval in June for the tournament's request to convert from being a July clay court event to a June grass court event from 2015, when the gap between the French Open and Wimbledon expands from two weeks to three weeks.
"The future starts now!" said Edwin Weindorfer, the MercedesCup Tournament Director, at a press conference in Stuttgart City Hall. "The switch to grass courts opens many interesting perspectives for the MercedesCup and starts a new era of the tournament."
The first court to make the switch at the Weissenhof Tennis Club is Court No.18, with the tournament's groundstaff assisted and supervised by their counterparts from Wimbledon. The court is due to be ready for an exhibition match in 2014, to be held during the clay court event.
Centre Court, ENBW Court, and Courts No.12 and No.13 will be converted to grass following the conclusion of the 2014 event, with all five ready for competitive action in 2015.
The new 2015 grass court tournament will also feature an increased prize money purse, with the total pool rising from 467,800 euros to 600,000 euros.
"It's fantastic that Germany will host two grass court tournaments with Stuttgart and Halle from 2015," said Germany's No.1, Tommy Haas, who was competing at the clay court tournament. "This will offer the world's best tennis players ideal opportunities to prepare for Wimbledon. It is definitely a goal of mine to play on grass at the MercedesCup in two years."
"We have worked very hard on this and we are convinced that our investments in the new and permanent grass courts and infrastructure will be well rewarded," Weindorfer added.
The All England Club, Wimbledon, is committed to acting as a guardian of the grass court game, and welcomed Stuttgart's request to change surfaces.
"We are delighted to welcome the MercedesCup as a very important first step in building this exciting new extension to the grass court game," said Philip Brook, AELTC Chairman. "It is a highly respected tournament with a fine history and with whom we have a great relationship, and we look forward to working closely with them as we develop the opportunities for top class grass court tennis."
"Here at Wimbledon we are very into our research of playing surfaces and have always been open about results," added Neil Stubley, head groundsman at the AELTC. "We run a grass-court seminar for two days every year, because if anybody wants our help, it helps Wimbledon itself."
Photographed above (L-R): Edwin Weindorfer, MercedesCup Tournament Director, Toni Nadal, Laurent Delanney, CEO ATP Europe & Commercial Director, Andreas Stoch, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, Boris Becker, Philip Brook, AELTC chairman, Dr. Joachim Schmidt, Head of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz Cars, Dr. Gert Brandner, Chairman TC Weissenhof
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